Freddy Fender

If You Don't Love Me

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Yes, one gets a full meal at this particular buffet, but it is one of those steam-table affairs where some of the dishes give off the aroma of having sat out too long. Producer Huey P. Meaux, certainly not a slouch, works up a frenzy here with a half-dozen keyboard players, several choirs, and even an early appearance of synthesizers on a country album. Fender's voice is gorgeous and the choice of the material runs the gamut from righteous to sentimentality on a level that only a select few artists in this genre can pull off. Fortunately, Fender is among this group, but unfortunately even he gets pushed over the edge by oohs and aahs that would be more in place as a background to a romantic scene featuring Mickey and Minnie Mouse. The sublime production touches and cooking playing share space with the aforementioned spoiled food, often during the same song. The opening track is a cover of Doug Sahm's "We'll Take Our Last Walk Tonight" and features a groove that combines psychedelic and Cajun with so little clutter that there is still room for the inevitable choir to come stumbling in. Meaux seems to have forgotten that earlier Fender efforts of much better overall quality had been done with smaller, more focused groups and less show-offy production. Fans of picker Sonny Landreth can count him amongst this studio riff-raff, contributing some nice dobro licks.

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